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09 Apr 21. Biden’s budget meets criticism from right and left on Pentagon spending. U.S. President Joe Biden asked Congress to sharply hike spending on climate change, cancer and underperforming schools, but his first budget wishlist on Friday drew howls of bipartisan concern over military spending. The $1.5trn budget, reflecting an 8% increase in base funding from this year, marks a sharp contrast with the goals of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
It would spread billions of dollars more across areas ranging from public transit, poor schools, toxic site clean-ups, foreign aid and background checks on gun sales, but spend nothing on border walls.
The budget “makes things fairer,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Yet the proposal was greeted by bipartisan scorn over its suggested funding for the Department of Defense, roughly even on an inflation-adjusted basis at $715bn. The administration also cut an “Overseas Contingency Operations” account that even government bureaucrats said had come to serve as a slush fund for extra military spending.
Biden’s request displeased both liberals hoping to impose cuts and hawks who want military spending to increase to deal with threats from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea – a reminder of the uphill battle Biden faces in delivering the policies he promised as a candidate beyond the COVID-19 emergency.
Five top Senate Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a joint statement warning that the Biden plan sent “a terrible message” to U.S. allies and adversaries and called into question the administration’s willingness to confront China.
“We can’t afford to fail in our constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense,” wrote lawmakers including top Republicans on critical Senate committees involved in the budget-making process.
The U.S. allocates nearly half its discretionary budget to military and defense, and has long outspent any other country.
U.S. Representative Ro Khanna of California, a top liberal Democratic voice on security matters, said the military spending request was “disappointing” and left open the possibility of “wasteful spending” on missiles.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Budget Committee and a top liberal who frequently collaborates with Biden, said he was broadly supportive of the budget but said it was “time for us to take a serious look” at the Pentagon’s “waste and fraud.”
The agency failed here its comprehensive audit in fiscal 2020, the third year in a row, reflecting broad system and accounting problems.
‘MOMENT OF POSSIBILITY’
Nearly three months into a job consumed by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden’s proposal document offered a long-awaited glimpse into the new president’s agenda.
Biden would increase spending by $14bn across agencies to deal with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, a shift from the Trump administration’s dismissal of climate science.
The president would spend millions on dealing with rising numbers of unaccompanied children showing up at the country’s southern border from Central America, including $861m to invest in that region to stop asylum-seekers from coming to the United States.
But his budget would provide no funding for the construction of a border wall, the administration said, a signature Trump priority, and would increase funding for investigation of immigration agents accused of “white supremacy.”
Among the biggest proposed increases in funding is $36.5bn for a federal aid program for public schools in poorer neighborhoods, more than double the 2021 level, and for researching deadly diseases other than the COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated his term in office so far.
“This moment of crisis is also a moment of possibility,” Biden’s acting budget director, Shalanda Young, wrote in a letter to the Senate.
Biden would spend $6.5bn to launch a group leading targeted research into diseases from cancer to diabetes and Alzheimer’s, a program that reflects Biden’s long desire to use government spending to create breakthroughs in medical research.
The historically short “skinny” budget was delayed, spanned just 41 pages and did not address how much the country’s debt will increase or what taxes will fund the spending.
By contrast, the first proposal budget issued by President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden in 2009 was published in February and stretched to 134 pages.
The document also provides only cursory spending figures on “discretionary” programs and departments where Congress has flexibility to decide what it wants to spend for the fiscal year starting in October. That does not include areas deemed mandatory including old-age, disability, unemployment and medical benefits, which consume more than two-thirds of the overall budget.
The document also does not include Biden’s $2trn infrastructure proposal or another large spending bill expected in the coming weeks. Those changes would be included in a full budget proposal to be submitted in late spring.
Still, the document kick-starts months of negotiation with Congress over what will ultimately be funded.
“This is the beginning of what we know is a long journey,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The White House had criticized resistance from politically appointed budget officials during the handover from Trump and denied that competing interests over issues like military funding played a role in the delay.
Biden also had to withdraw his initial pick, Neera Tanden, to lead the Office of Management and Budget after she faced difficulty winning Senate approval. (Source: Reuters)
09 Apr 21. President’s FY 2022 Discretionary Funding Request for the Department of Defense. President Biden Outlines Defense Proposals to Make Key Investments to Defend the Nation through Modernization, Innovation, and Enhanced Readiness
The Biden-Harris Administration today submitted to Congress the President’s priorities for fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending. The funding request, totaling $715bn, invests in the core foundations of our country’s strength and advances key Department of Defense priorities to defend the Nation, innovate and modernize the Department, build resilience and readiness, take care of its people, and succeed through teamwork.
“The pursuit of our national security interests requires investments that target and align our priorities and capabilities to address the constantly evolving and dynamic threat landscape,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “The President’s discretionary funding request represents an important investment that will ensure the Department’s resources are matched with our strategy and policy to defend the nation and take care of our people, while revitalizing the key alliances and partnerships to succeed.”
The President’s FY22 discretionary request:
- Defends the Nation. The discretionary request addresses threats to the Nation by prioritizing the need to counter the pacing threat from China as the Department’s top challenge, deterring nation-state threats emanating from Russia, Iran, and North Korea, funding investments in long-range strike capabilities to bolster deterrence and improve survivability, and promoting climate resilience and energy efficiencies.
- Innovates and Modernizes. The discretionary request makes key investments in technology and modernizes the force. The Department will support defense research and development to spur innovation, optimize U.S. Navy shipbuilding, modernize the nuclear deterrent, and invest in hypersonics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, microelectronics, and quantum science. In order to prioritize these key investments, the Department will propose to redirect resources to its top priority programs, platforms, and systems by divesting legacy systems with less utility in current and future threat environments.
- Maintains and Enhances Readiness. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians remain the best trained and equipped force in the world and are always ready to fulfill our most solemn obligation to protect the security of the American people. The discretionary request maintains and enhances readiness while addressing threats to readiness, including hate group activity within the military, and prioritizing strong protections against harassment and discrimination.
- Takes Care of Our People. Our military members, families and civilian personnel are key to the readiness and well-being of the All-Volunteer force, and therefore are critical to our national security. The discretionary request prioritizes programs that enable the growth and development of our workforce; improves recruiting, retention, training and education; and directly supports military spouses, caregivers, survivors, and dependents. A major element to readiness and the development of our people remains our diversity and the opportunities afforded to all. Therefore, through its focus on personnel readiness, this request will help us achieve a more diverse and effective workforce.
These discretionary investments reflect only one element of the President’s broader agenda. In the coming months, the Administration will release a Budget that will build on this discretionary funding request and detail a comprehensive fiscal vision for the Nation that reinvests in America, supports future growth and prosperity, meets U.S. commitments, and does so in a fiscally sustainable way.
For more information on the President’s FY22 discretionary funding request, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/FY-2022-Discretionary-Request/. (Source: US DoD)
09 Apr 21. Biden requests $715bn for Pentagon, hinting at administration’s future priorities, Defense News reported. U.S. President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget request asks for $753bn in national security funding, an increase of 1.6 percent that includes $715bn for the Defense Department.
The request, rolled out Friday, amounts to a slight decrease for the Pentagon when adjusted for inflation, and it’s well shy of the Trump administration’s projected $722bn request for FY22. The proposal would also end the off-budget funding pool known the overseas contingency operations, or OCO, account.
The first installment of Biden’s budget plan contained only top-line discretionary spending numbers. A more detailed budget is expected in May or June, although that is not expected to include reliable numbers for the Future Years Defense Program, or FYDP, projections.
Lawmakers, for years under the Budget Control Act caps, have carved spending deals with rough parity between defense and nondefense spending. With the BCA expired, Biden wants to boost nondefense by 16 percent, to $769 bn. (Administration officials tout the number as 3.3 percent of gross domestic product, which is roughly equal to a 30-year average.)
“A chunk of this budget request, on the defense side in particular, is to pay for the pay raise for men and women in uniform, and then the civilians that support them; I think that’s something we could find support for on both sides of the aisle” an administration official told reporters Friday. “The focus will be on investments on nondefense, but also ensuring the Defense Department he can continue its strategic goals as we outcompete China, and as we ensure that the men and women in uniform have everything that they need.”
The overall national security top line of $753bn includes $38bn not earmarked for the Pentagon. While the budget document does not spell out where that money is going, a large chunk of that is traditionally tied up in the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department that handles nuclear warheads.
For the defense industry, budget documents teased an emphasis on shipbuilding, which dovetails with the Pentagon’s focus on China and Indo-Pacific. It comes amid a push from seapower advocates and after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said he would advocate for “heavy investment” in sea-, air- and space-centric platforms, with “bloodletting” in other areas of the budget.
The defense top line is unlikely to satisfy key Republicans, who have claimed the Department of Defense needs a 3-5 percent annual increase to stay ahead of China and other evolving threats, nor progressives, who have asked for cuts of as much as 10 percent.
That’s not a bad thing, said Roman Schweizer, a defense industry analyst with Cowen.
“As we’ve said before, a flattish number would be positive because the Biden Admin will be signaling to Congress that it doesn’t want big cuts in defense,” Schweizer wrote in a note sent to investors Friday. “In Washington, when both sides are angry, that’s called a compromise. There will be a lot of griping along the way, but it’s the kind of outcome that probably makes sense.”
There will be no separate OCO request, the administration official said. Though intended as a wartime account, OCO became a tool to skirt congressionally mandated budget caps, with critics in both parties.
“Both sides of the aisle considered [OCO] a budgetary gimmick given that many of the overseas operations that they supported had been around for many, many years,” the administration official said. “So we had bipartisan interest in ensuring that those things were accomplished in the base defense budget. That’s what you’ll see presented from us today.”
Skinny on details
The document broadly discusses defense issues, with almost no dollar figures appended to any priorities. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks issued a memo in February outlining her biggest programmatic focus areas. While several of those areas are highlighted, dollar figures are currently missing.
Statements about global security are heavily weighed toward the State Department having the lead — a trend since the start of the Biden administration. For instance, the document pledges a “significant increase in resources to strengthen and defend democracies throughout the world, advance human rights, fight corruption, and counter authoritarianism.”
The only place where specific funding streams are called out comes when broadly discussing the need to update information and cybersecurity systems, which will include “$500m for the Technology Modernization Fund, an additional $110m for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and $750m as a reserve for Federal agency information technology enhancements.”
However, there are some hints as to the administration’s defense-budget thinking:
- China as the top challenge. The budget identifies China as the “top challenge,” and calls out the need to “leverage” the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. That would seem to imply that most, if not all, of what U.S. Indo-Pacific Command head Adm. Phil Davidson has sought will be included in the budget request.
- R&D focus. Throughout the document, there is a focus on research and development for new technologies across the government, and the DoD is no exception. The budget request “prioritizes defense research, development, test, and evaluation funding to invest in breakthrough technologies that would drive innovation and underpin the development of next-generation defense capabilities.”
- Cuts are coming. Paying for R&D and new capabilities requires cuts elsewhere, something previewed in the Biden administration’s early strategic guidance. The budget request supports the “DOD’s plan to divest legacy systems and programs to redirect resources from low- to high-priority programs, platforms, and systems. Some legacy force structure is too costly to maintain and operate, and no longer provides the capabilities needed to address national security challenges. The discretionary request enables DOD to reinvest savings associated with divestitures and other efficiencies to higher priority investments.”
- Shipbuilding as a priority. Figuring out the right balance of shipbuilding was a major focus for President Donald Trump’s national security team, and it remains so for the Biden administration. Although details are thin, the budget document proposes “executable and responsible investments” in the fleet, including “the recapitalization of the Nation’s strategic ballistic missile submarine fleet, and invests in remotely operated and autonomous systems and the next generation attack submarine program.”
- Nuclear on track for now? One of the biggest questions facing the defense budget is about nuclear spending, particularly around the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, America’s replacement for its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Opponents have pushed for GBSD to be paused while alternatives are studied, but advocates say the program must stay on track or risk total derailment. An early sign of what the Biden administration has decided to do: “While the Administration is reviewing the U.S. nuclear posture, the discretionary request supports ongoing nuclear modernization programs while ensuring that these efforts are sustainable.”
- Long-range fires wins out. “The safety and security of the Nation requires a strong, sustainable, and responsive mix of long-range strike capabilities,” according to the document, echoing a major focus from the Pentagon as it moves toward its new joint war-fighting plan. The budget invests in “the development and testing of hypersonic strike capabilities while enhancing existing long-range strike capabilities to bolster deterrence and improve survivability and response timelines.”
- Climate and energy. Discussions about climate change as a security issue were a sensitive subject during the Trump administration, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made it clear early in his tenure that the issue will be front and center for him. The budget request includes money to “plan for and mitigate impacts of climate change and improve the resilience of DOD facilities and operations. The discretionary request also invests in power and energy research and development in order to improve installation and platform energy performance and optimize military capability.”
- Biological threats. In the post-pandemic world, the DoD may play a major part in gearing the U.S. up for another biological threat. At a time when a think tank is calling for tripling the biological threat R&D funding, Biden’s budget will fund “programs that support biological threat reduction in cooperation with global partners, emerging infectious disease surveillance, biosafety and biosecurity, and medical countermeasure research and development.”
Budgets traditionally are released in February, but a delay is common for the first budget request of a new administration. Budget planning takes most of the previous year, and a new team can only change so much without an extended timeline.
The Pentagon’s budget planning has been particularly difficult this transition, according to officials who point blame at Trump appointees they say blocked Biden’s landing team from seeing the budget documents until just before the inauguration.
The budget, initially set to be rolled out last week, was reportedly delayed in a disagreement about the size of the defense budget.
During her Feb. 8 confirmation hearing, Hicks told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that she was concerned about the budget schedule.
“I think the biggest challenge that I will face, if confirmed, because of this is around budget transparency,” she said then. “Typically that information is shared with the transition team because the administration will owe to Congress a president’s budget submission in the spring.
“So the inability to look at that information … I think it will cause some delay in the timeline by which we can give budget quality information back to Congress. So that would be the area [where] I would ask for a little relief or understanding.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Apr 21. Artificial Intelligence Key to Maintaining Military, Economic Advantages, Leaders Say. Officials today discussed the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s recent report and the progress for the adoption and implementation of AI across the Defense Department.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael S. Groen, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, and Robert O. Work, vice chair of the NSCAI, spoke to reporters at the Pentagon.
Work provided an overview of the report: The United States does not have a strategy, organizational structure and resources to win the competition with China for effective implementation of AI, he said.
“So the first thing is we have got to do is to take this competition seriously, and we need to win it.”
To win, AI must receive the necessary funding, at least 3.4% of the DOD budget. Those funds should then be channeled into priority areas as recommended by a steering committee consisting of the deputy defense secretary, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the principal director of national intelligence, he said, noting that a good first step was having the JAIC report directly to the deputy defense secretary.
That steering committee would also remove any bureaucratic obstacles and would oversee the development of a technology annex to the National Defense Strategy, Work said.
Also the department should set AI readiness performance goals by the end of this fiscal year, with an eye toward AI-ready implementation by 2025, he said.
Work noted that the U.S. is still the world leader in AI, but China is structured to rapidly advance with its strong government support to academia, the private sector and People’s Liberation Army.
Identifying the right talent for AI, ensuring AI is used in an ethically responsible manner and forming international partnerships are other ingredients for successful AI implementation, Work said.
Groan said the department agrees with the report and is already implementing about 100 of recommendations that were given. Other recommendations would be included in feasibility studies.
“AI as a core tenet of defense modernization,” Groan said. AI efforts will be fundamental to achieving quality networks and data services in a secure manner.
“We’ve created positive momentum for AI, and we continue to build on that now. But now comes the real critical test in any transformation. The hardest part is institutional change and change management of the workforce and practices and processes that drive a business. This step will not be easy, even within the Department of Defense, but it’s foundational to our competitive success, our accountability and our affordability,” he said. “We have a generational opportunity here for AI to be our future. We must act now. We need to start putting these pieces into place now.”
AI isn’t just important for the DOD’s warfighting capabilities, it will also be a powerful driver of the American economy, Groan said. (Source: US DoD)
07 Apr 21. Rejoining Open Skies would send ‘wrong message’ to Russia, State tells partners. The United States appears unlikely to rejoin the 34-nation Open Skies Treaty over its concerns about Russian noncompliance, with the Biden administration telling international partners in a recent diplomatic memo obtained by Defense News that doing so would send the “wrong message” to Russia.
The note, sent days before the U.S. Air Force confirmed plans to retire the aging aircraft used to fulfill the mutual surveillance pact, may signal the end of hopes that the U.S. will rejoin the agreement.
Though President Joe Biden, as president-elect, condemned then-President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the treaty, Russia has since pulled out, and the Senate’s 50-50 split presents an uphill fight to re-ratify the agreement.
The State Department said in a statement Monday that a final decision has not been made. However, in a March 31 demarche, it told multiple partners that the administration is “frankly concerned that agreeing to rejoin a treaty that Russia continues to violate would send the wrong message to Russia and undermine our position on the broader arms control agenda.”
Other countries signed onto the Open Skies Treaty, including prominent NATO allies, pushed for the U.S. to remain as a participant, arguing the pact serves as a valuable channel for transparency and dialogue between Russia and the United States, the world’s top two nuclear powers. The letter acknowledged the issue came up at a Feb. 25 NATO event, as well as in private conversations.
“While we recognize that Russia’s Open Skies violations are not of the same magnitude as its material breach of the INF Treaty, they are part of a pattern of Russian disregard for international commitments — in arms control and beyond — that raises questions about Russia’s readiness to participate cooperatively in a confidence-building regime,” the demarche read, referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The Biden administration did not spell out its noncompliance concerns in the letter, but the Trump administration quarreled with Moscow over what cameras were being equipped on Russian overflights; it also accused Russia of restricting flights over Kaliningrad and using Open Skies to surveil the Trump golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, something open-source experts have questioned.
The diplomatic message doesn’t entirely rule out a return, saying: “We believe, however, that there are circumstances in which we return to OST or include some of OST’s confidence-building measures under other cooperative security efforts.”
Still, it’s a sharp turn from November, when Biden condemned the withdrawal, warning it would “exacerbate growing tensions between the West and Russia, and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict.” (Biden has signaled a harder line with Russia than Trump, agreeing with a news anchor’s question last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”)
Asked about the diplomatic note, a State Department spokesman said that “no decision has been made on the future of U.S. participation in the Open Skies Treaty.”
“The United States is actively reviewing matters related to the treaty and consulting with our allies and partners. Russia’s continuing noncompliance with the Treaty is one of several pertinent factors,” the spokesman said. “As this process continues, we encourage Russia to take steps to come back into compliance with the agreement.”
While the demarche likely did nothing to convince OST members that the U.S. will rejoin the agreement, two of the treaty’s staunchest allies in Congress see the retirement of the aircraft used to fly Open Skies missions as a sure sign that Biden isn’t rejoining. Treaty advocates were hopeful in November — when the Trump administration declared it was exiting Open Skies but didn’t retire the aircraft — that the Biden team could still revive the pact.
But just days after the March 31 note to allies, the Omaha World-Herald broke news that the two 1960s-era OC-135B aircraft used to fly aerial photography missions under the treaty will be retired from the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and flown to the Air Force’s desert “boneyard” in Arizona in May and June.
“Since there is no longer a mission requirement for OC-135B, the Department of the Air Force has moved to initiate standard equipment disposition actions in accordance with regulations,” an Air Force spokesperson said in a statement to Defense News. “Part of that disposition includes moving the aircraft to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in the next couple of months.”
Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a retired Air Force one-star general who commanded the 55th Wing at Offutt and now represents an adjacent area, said he learned of the move last week from a congressionally mandated report from acting Air Force Secretary John Roth. Afterward, Bacon seemed resigned that the fight to save the OC-135Bs is lost.
“I think the door’s about 95 percent shut” on the Open Skies Treaty, Bacon told Defense News. “My impression from reading this document is that the Biden administration has made the decision not to revive Open Skies. They didn’t use those exact words, but they treated it matter-of-factly that it’s done.”
Bacon did not rule out a future push to acquire Gulfstream aircraft to fulfill the mission. However, the 20-page report said the Air Force determined it would be too costly to keep flying the OC-135Bs and that there is no other mission for them; they will be used for parts.
Another key advocate for Offutt, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., indicated to Defense News that she is ready to move on.
“Russia’s failure to obey the parameters of the Open Skies Treaty was the key reason why the U.S. withdrew, a decision that the Biden administration has not disputed,” Fischer said in a statement. “Rather than invest more in two aircraft that were already slated for retirement, I am focused on the positive future of Offutt’s growing missions.” (Source: Defense News)
05 Apr 21. DOD Closely Monitoring Russian Activities in Arctic. Russian military activities and infrastructure build-ups in the Arctic are not going unnoticed, the Pentagon press secretary said.
“Without getting into specific intelligence assessments, obviously we’re monitoring it very closely,” said John F. Kirby during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
As ice melts in the Arctic, new options for transiting the Arctic open up — and also remove natural barriers that Russia once relied on to protect its own interests there. Now, it is seeking to bolster its security through the refurbishing of Soviet-era airfields, the expansion of its network of air and coastal defense missile systems and the strengthening of its anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
But the U.S. has its own interests in the Arctic as well, Kirby said.
“[We] obviously recognize that the region is key terrain that’s vital to our own homeland defense and as a potential strategic corridor between the Indo-Pacific, Europe and the homeland — which would make it vulnerable to expanded competition,” Kirby said. “We’re committed to protecting our U.S. national security interests in the Arctic by upholding a rules-based order in the region, particularly through our network of Arctic allies and partners who share the same deep mutual interests that we do.”
In the 2019 DOD Arctic Strategy, the Defense Department told Congress it has three objectives in the Arctic. Those objectives include defending the homeland, ensuring common areas remain free and open, and competing when needed to maintain a favorable regional balance of power.
“The Arctic is a potential corridor — between the Indo-Pacific and Europe and the U.S. homeland — for expanded strategic competitions,” the report reads. “Strategic competitors may undertake malign or coercive activities in the Arctic in order to advance their goals for these regions. The DOD must be prepared to protect U.S. national security interests by taking appropriate actions in the Arctic as part of maintaining favorable balances of power in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.”
Kirby said the U.S. military is well aware of Russian activities in the Arctic, and reiterated that the U.S. has its own interests it will defend as well.
“Obviously we’re watching this, and as I said before, we have national security interests there that we know … we need to protect and defend,” he said. “And as I said, nobody’s interested in seeing the Arctic become militarized.” (Source: US DoD)
02 Apr 21. Air Force general says of Army’s long range precision fires goal: ‘It’s stupid.’ The U.S. Air Force general in charge of managing the service’s bomber inventory slammed the Army’s new plan to base long-range missiles in the Pacific, calling the idea expensive, duplicative and “stupid.”
“Why in the world would we entertain a brutally expensive idea when we don’t, as the [Defense] Department, have the money to go do that?” Gen. Timothy Ray, who leads Air Force Global Strike Command, said during the Mitchell Institute’s Aerospace Advantage podcast recorded March 31.
“I’ve had a few congressmen ask me. And you know what? Honestly I think it’s stupid,” he said. “I just think it’s a stupid idea to go and invest that kind of money that recreates something that the service has mastered and that we’re doing already right now. Why in the world would you try that? I try to make sure that my language isn’t a little more colorful than it is, but give me a break.”
The long-range precision fires effort currently ranks as the Army’s top modernization priority, and the service has plans to field a ground-launched hypersonic missile system by 2023.
In March, the Army unveiled a new strategy paper laying out its plan to function as an “inside force” that would forward-deploy troops and ground-based missiles in the Pacific capable of destroying Chinese defenses.
Developing strategic counterfire and hypersonic weapons is “hugely important” for the Army to be able to neutralize ships, air defenses, and anti-access/area denial capabilities that could suppress the service’s maneuverability, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said during a March 25 event at the Brookings Institute.
“When you take a look at what some of our competitors have done with anti-access/area denial, they put up very elaborate air and missile defense systems, they’ve put up very elaborate anti-ship capabilities, and they’re basically trying to expand themselves,” he said. “The argument that we have is that you want to have multiple options to do that.”
That position has rankled some air power advocates who believe the Air Force’s bomber fleet presents a more effective option for penetrating enemy airspace and destroying missile defenses, but Air Force leaders have largely stayed silent on their concerns about how the Army’s plans could eat away at the defense budget.
In the podcast, Ray argued that the Army hasn’t proved it can get allies and partners in the Western Pacific to sign on to host the weapon systems the service hopes to develop.
“There are a lot of countries that have to agree to this. I could see some of them probably agreeing in the European theater, maybe in the Central Asian theater, but I don’t see it coming together with any credibility in the Pacific any time real soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is regularly flying bomber task force missions across the globe, thus positioning long-range strike assets in theater that are ready to quickly respond to a crisis, Ray said. By 2022, the service will have fielded its first air-launched hypersonic missile.
“You’ve got a bird in the hand, a proven capability, a team that knows what it’s like, understands how we could do things around the globe so quickly, knows how to integrate the kill chains,” he said. “Why are you trying to recreate that, unless there’s a parochial interest?”
It remains to be seen whether Ray’s comments are the first strike in what will become a larger conflict between the Army and Air Force, or simply the frustrations of a single general officer.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the Joint Warfighting Concept calls for all the services to be able to conduct the long-range strike mission.
“Everything [now] is about lines,” Hyten said in August, according to Aviation Week. “But in the future, those lines are eliminated, which means an Army capability can have on its own platform, the ability to defend itself or strike deep into an adversary area of operations. A naval force can defend itself or strike deep. The Air Force can defend itself and strike deep. The Marines can defend themselves or strike deep.”
During a joint appearance earlier this week with McConville, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown noted that the services must work together despite having “a different perspective of how we look at the battlefield or a strategic environment.”
After the publication of this story, an Air Force official told Defense News that Brown and McConville had spoken to each other on April 2 about Ray’s remarks.
“They know the Air Force and the Army need to continue to work together in defense of the nation and look forward to making further progress toward that end,” the source said.
Brown also released his own statement.
“Each of the services is charged with organizing, training and equipping forces to capitalize on unique capabilities, meet national security requirements, and to support our joint team. I would highlight that in addition to our four other core missions – air superiority, rapid global mobility, ISR and C2 – the U.S. Air Force provides our nation with an unparalleled 24/7 long-range global strike capability,” he said. “The Air Force will continue to work closely with all of our joint teammates to provide the capabilities the nation requires.” (Source: Defense News)
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